Displaced from their traditional homelands, then shunted to progressively smaller and more barren reservations, the provisions of the Dawes Act (1887) were the final wrecking ball for the Indian way of life. Under the pretext of ‘assimilation’, the Indians were now to be assigned individual land allotments, abolishing communal ownership, and, conveniently, leaving the bulk of reservation land for reallocation to European American settlement. During a solar eclipse, a Paiute Indian in Nevada claimed a divine vision that the white man would leave, if Indians observed certain rituals including the performance of a ‘Ghost Dance’. The practice spread rapidly through the west, including to Dakota, and the Lakota Sioux. The ‘Ghost Dance’ rattled the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who organized the implementation of the Dawes Act. Soldiers rounded up the Indian ‘trouble-makers’ at Wounded Knee Creek and a fracas broke out. The soldiers opened fire, killing 153, mainly women and children.
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